Preventing Workplace Harassment
The U.S. Secret Service is committed to maintaining a work environment free from harassing behavior for all of its employees. Prohibited harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome conduct, whether verbal, nonverbal, or physical, that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment as a result of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression), national origin, age (40 or older), disability (physical, mental, or an individual’s need for a reasonable accommodation), protected genetic information, marital status, parental status, political affiliation, participation in protected activity, or any other basis protected by law.
Harassing behavior by a Secret Service employee does not need to rise to the level of unlawful harassment in order for it to constitute misconduct. Violations of policy may result in administrative or disciplinary actions against offenders.
Reporting Workplace Harassment
Anyone who believes that they have been subjected to or witnessed workplace harassment should report that harassment. Reports within the Secret Service can be made to:
- A member of their supervisory chain or any other supervisor or management official
- The Anti-Harassment Program
- The Office of Professional Responsibility, Inspection Division
- The USSS Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Program
- EDI’s Prevention of Harassment Hotline:
- 1-800-420-5558 (toll free)
- 202-406-9805 (TDD)
Reporting harassment to a supervisor or manager, through the EDI Hotline, or to the AHP does not constitute the initiation of the EEO complaint process, the filing of a grievance, or any other type of appeal or complaint. If the affected individual seeks to file a complaint of discrimination, he or she must do so by contacting the EDI Office within 45 days of the alleged harassment.
The Secret Service does not tolerate retaliation against any individual for: reporting harassment, assisting another individual in reporting harassment, providing information related to such a report, filing an EEO complaint, or opposing conduct that he or she believes is unlawfully discriminatory or harassing. Any person who believes he or she has been subject to retaliation should report the conduct using the same reporting procedures as complaints of harassment.
The Anti-Harassment Program
The AHP is responsible for receiving and reviewing allegations of workplace harassment based on a protected basis; engaging in prompt, thorough, and impartial fact-findings; serving as a point of contact and providing guidance to employees and management officials on workplace harassment complaints; ensuring that all reported incidents of harassment are handled in a timely manner; and coordinating with appropriate offices to ensure compliance with DHS and Secret Service anti-harassment policies.
The AHP is one of the measures used by the Secret Service to prevent harassment (sexual or non-sexual) in the workplace and to correct harassing behavior before it becomes severe or pervasive.
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on a protected basis, to include race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression), national origin, age (40 or older), disability (physical, mental, or an individual's need for a reasonable accommodation), retaliation, protected genetic information, marital status, parental status, and political affiliation. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.
Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee. Further, the victim does not have to suffer economic injury in order for harassment to have occurred.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
When a supervisor uses or condones implicit or explicit sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, pay, or job of an employee, they are engaging in sexual harassment. Similarly, any employee who makes deliberate or repeated unwelcome verbal comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature is also engaging in sexual harassment.
Sexual harassers may be male or female and could be a supervisor, an employee, a contractor, a coworker, a subordinate, or a member of the public. A victim of sexual harassment is anyone affected by the offensive conduct or behavior. The victim may be male or female, and can be the same sex as the harasser.
Retaliation, also referred to as reprisal, occurs when a person is subjected to material adversity because they have engaged in prior protected activity.
- Material adversity is something that is likely to dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. It does not have to be a tangible employment action - proposed employment actions, threats, ostracizing someone, and dismissive or insulting statements may all contribute to reprisal or a retaliatory hostile work environment.
- Prior protected activity is any aspect of trying to oppose or remedy discrimination. It includes threatening to file or filing an EEO or harassment complaint; participating in the investigation of an EEO or a harassment complaint; requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice; or other acts to oppose discrimination, as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws.
The Secret Service anti-harassment policy only covers conduct that is based on a protected basis. However, non-EEO based harassment should also be reported as potential misconduct. Non-EEO harassment is any form of unwelcome, pervasive, persistent, and unsolicited behavior, whether verbal, non-verbal, written, or physical, that is objectively offensive and could alter the affected employee's terms and conditions of employment. Such behavior may include bullying, intimidation, or demeaning/abusive conduct.
Anyone who is subjected to, witnesses, or is aware of malicious conduct that a reasonable person would find hostile and is unrelated to legitimate business interests – BUT that does not implicate membership in a protected class – should report such behavior by going to a supervisor or manager, or by contacting the Office of Inspection.